It’s about time that I visit Puerto Princesa in Palawan. Puerto Princesa is the capital city of Palawan, the world’s best island, as voted by the internet year by year. It’s also home to one of the New 7 Wonder of Nature, Puerto Princesa Underground River.
It has long been on my list of place to visit. It certainly took me a long time to get to Puerto Princesa, but no better time than during the PPUR Day Festival. I jumped at the chance to be part of this celebration that included touring Puerto Princesa’s attraction. Better late than never, here are my take on the top things to do in Puerto Princesa
Puerto Princesa Underground River
A visit to Puerto Princesa Underground River is a definite must when you are there. This is one of the world’s longest navigational river at 4.3km, half of its actual length. A typical guided boat tour takes visitors to 1.5 km into the cave where you can see karsts and interesting natural rock formations. I’ve visited many different cave systems and have to say that this one is most remarkable for me. The general ambiance outside the cave with limestone mountain is really just so beautiful.
With special permit, it’s possible to visit the entire 4.5km deep of the cave. They said that there you can see prehistoric fossils of sea cows. The Italian scientist that has been studying this underwater river and cave dated the fossil to be 20 million years old. So it means that this cave is that old! And the fact that nothing man made is ever built inside, it makes it kind of a time machine.
This amazing Philippine treasure was inscribed as Unesco World Heritage Site in 1999 and was recently voted as one of the New 7 Wonder of the World
Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm
The Iwahig Prison and Penal farm in Puerto Princesa is an open air penal colony covering 38,000 hectares of jungle and coastland. Founded in 1904, Iwahig Prison was originally established to as an extension to the overflowing Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa. But later it has been transformed into special unit wherein long-term prisoners who are granted probationary status are allowed to roam around freely and have some form of livelihood, such as being a farmer, fishermen, or craft maker.
I have never been to this kind of facility, and frankly quite ignorant that such an incredible facility exists in the Philippines! This year in Tonga, my host told me that in Tongatapu, they let the prisoners out in the afternoon to pick up the trash in park, and then put back in the jail.
Due to miscommunication by my tour guide, we arrived Iwahig earlier than the other guests. This is good because it then gave me a lot of time to chat with the free roaming inmates working at the souvenir shops. I ended up spending about 800 pesos on souvenirs and tips because I wanted to help those who I chatted with. It’s interesting knowing about their life, what brought them there, and what they think of Iwahig.
The funniest exchange I had would be with this young guy who was convicted of carnapping. He’s in his early 30s but has been serving for 14 years. He said he started with stealing side mirrors. And I gave a loud “AHA!” because years ago when we used to live around Banawa area in Quezon City, we’ve had several side mirrors stolen while parked in the street. We had a good laugh out of this.
Anyway, I enjoyed my visit here and not to mention the view here is really fantastic. If I were to be in prison, this would be my preferred location.
Island Hopping Honda Bay
Palawan is consistently voted as world’s best island for reason that it has so many pieces of paradise with white sand beaches and colorful reef for snorkelling. Honda Bay in Puerto Princesa has Pambato, Luli, and Cowry as some of the famous islands for daytrip island hopping.
Pambato Reef is a marine protected sanctuary very famous for snorkelers. I thought the floating platform they built for visitors is really nice. It’s the first time I’ve seen something like that. And the sea turtle roof design is super cute. Although snorkelers have to be careful as the reef is quite shallow and may be damaged by fins.
Luli island name is a mashed-up of 2 tagalog words Lubog (sink) and Litaw (surface), as parts of the sandbar disappear during low tide. When fully visible, it is actually really huge and pretty. It has a platform where adrenalin junkies can jump from. It’s also good for snorkelling with lots of huge round batfish underwater.
One of the nicest island in Honda Bay, Cowrie island offers lunch buffet, massage kiosk, and water sporks activities such as kayaking and snorkelling.
I’ve skydived and bungy jumped twice but I’ve never done zipline. Not because of anything but I just never chanced upon it. So I supposed to make up for it, Bonggang Bakasyon scheduled 2 zipline activities in one day. Doing zipline is fun and also supports the local ecotourism.
Sabang X Zipeline
where you do take very scenic ride over sea and mountain for 90 seconds. This is the same area as Puerto Princesa Underground River so you can do it after the river tour.
Ugong Rock Zipline
where you’ll have a mini guided cave hike and spelunking to get to the top with magnificent field view. This mini trek takes less than 20 minutes and is easy. From the top you have the option to zipline in 2 styles, sitting up or superman style. Because we did the sitting position in Sabang X, I did the superman style which is a lot more fun. If you’re scared of ziplining, you have the option to go down the way you came up, but you’ll probably be so tired you’ll prefer to zipline down.
Crocodile Farm in Puerto Princesa is a sanctuary for Philippine Crocodile that’s on the endangered list. It has a Hatchling House which raise crocodiles that are endemic to the region. These crocodiles will then be released back to the wild.
The Crocodile farm also housed wild crocodiles that were captured from different region of the country. They were captured because they have been considered danger to the community they were found (example, eating children or attacking fishermen)
This is a skeleton of an actual crocodile
Valentino, captured on Valentines day 2012V, is 4.8meters long and weighs 500kgs. There are many other sea water crocodile live in this farm. However, they are not expected to live very long in captivity.
Officially named Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, it has more than crocodile inside its park, like this cute bearcat, and many more.
Palawan Butterfly Garden and Tribal Village
If you like butterflies…
Or catch a glimpse of the Palawan pheasant, a colorful medium size bird like a peacock, which I had no idea that we have. Unfortunately, not able to catch it in courtship mode.
The tribal village part is quite interesting for me. Every month, they invite different indigenous family as their guest where they get to interact with the visitors. They showcase their musical talent, hunting skills and medicinal knowledge. They also bring their handicrafts to the city to sell.
And if you like, you get the opportunity to take picture with their house pet.